All posts by James Aldridge

UK Games Expo Roundup

At the beginning of the month I had the pleasure of spending two days with friends at the NEC in Birmingham at UK Games Expo 2018.  This was my second year attending as a punter (I first attended in 2016 when I was trading as Twisted Pinnacle Games).

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Lots has been said elsewhere on the interweb about the show so I’m not going to do a full review here, just to say what an enjoyable and excellent time we all had.  Since moving from being solely at the Hilton Hotel to the NEC proper in 2016 the event has continued to grow and this year spread into a second exhibition hall.

 

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Hall 1 (it got a LOT busier)

 

There was the usual eclectic mix of traders and exhibitors (including a noticeable incease in the number of wargaming companies this year).  If one lacks self-control (like I tend to) then there is a tempatation at this sort of thing to go on an orgy of shopping. While this is certainly possible at UKGE it is somewhat eclipsed by the sheer number of opportunities to actually sit down and play games of all different shapes and sizes.  Be this companies demoing on their own stands, distributors like Esdevium/Asmodee UK or the much expanded open gaming areas (a real success this year with the opening of the second hall), there was simply so much choice.

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Open gaming in Hall 2

It’s also worth making a note on the atmosphere and demographic.  This is a very family friendly show and it was encouraging to not only see lots of kids and families present, but also a good male-female split (very different to wargaming shows).  My friend’s ten year old lad had a fantastic time at the specially organised children’s roleplaying games area.  There was also a family zone run by Imagination Gaming which provided the opportunity to play lots of different sorts of games aimed at the younger age groups.  I am thinking that next year it’ll be possible to bring my six year old daughter along and keep her entertained for the duration.

 

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Swag!

 

So, I wasn’t that good and did end up spending quite a bit while I was there (to be fair I had been saving and have had a massive clearout recently).  My swag for the day is pictured above – I was mainly concentrating on stuff for Star Wars Legion and was luckly to pick up one of only a handful of the newly released Rebel Fleet Trooper boxes on the Friday.  TTCombat ended up getting a lot of my money with their really affordable MDF scenery (mainly for Legion again).  My other big love at the moment is 7tv and Crooked Dice were present selling all sorts of cult TV and cinema related miniatures.

All in all a great couple of days, and I’mm looking forward to next year already.

Oh, and talking about 7tv, ‘The Apocalypse’ is coming – more on that soon…..

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Rebel Transport for Star Wars Legion

So my old school Kenner Rebel Transports from eBay have arrived and the journey towards a combined cool scenery piece and miniatures storage solution takes a step closer.  This is a quick (picture heavy) update on progress so far.

First step was a clean up (yet another way baby wipes are awesome!)  Being unsure of how 35 year old toy plastic would take paint I settled on an initial top coat of Testors Dullcote.

In the UK  we have had unseasonably good weather (even for late Spring), so I concentrated on using spray cans outdoors rather than the airbrush.  As such the next stage was a base coat of Army Painter Uniform Grey.  (By the way, I love my airbrush, but with the volume and area I was going to have to cover, aerosols seemed like a quicker and more convenient route for this project).

The next stage was an airbrush highlight with Vallejo Game Air Light Grey.  I wasn’t too careful here, just tried to get a consistent highlight without worrying too much about the panels.  The deep lines on the main body of the toy were panel lined using a medium tipped black Gundam Marker.

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The weathering was done in stages with some brushed on streaking using Army Painter Strong Tone wash, some oil brush pens from ‘Ammo of Mig Jimenez‘ and then a bit more wash through the airbrush.  Following this to tie it all together I used a can of Plastic Soldier Company ‘Light Brown’ Weathering spray.  Now sadly out of productions these are water based weathering sprays that you apply and then partly wipe off to get a really grimy look (they are great for WW2 tanks).

I’ve concentrated initially on the upper half of the body.  The lower half contains a bit more detail which according the the reference images I am using needs a bit more variation in colour and detail.  That will be the next step, then following that onto the ‘storage solution’ part of the project.

All in all I am relatively pleased with the outcome so far.  I think the grey colour scheme is actually a bit too dark when comparing to images of the ships from the films, but it will do for me.  I may have gone a bit over the top on weathering, but I like the idea that this is a proper battered old ship that perhaps the Rebels have been reduced to using out of desperation.  The one thing I will probably change when I come to starting the second ship is the approach to the panels on the hull which had stickers on.  This time round I just sprayed over them and then coloured them red using a Gundam marker.  I think the red is a bit too stark (plus the paint ran a bit), and also the stickers underneath did start to lift slightly.

So a bit of one down and one to go.  Trying not to get distracted but I may just have got hold of an AT-AT or two (oh dear)….

Legion first play and storage solutions

I finally got round to having a game of Star Wars Legion last weekend.  This was very much a training and learning game, so was played with unpainted miniatures (the horror!) on a 3 by 3 table with only infantry squads and an open acceptance we would more than likely get things wrong.

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First impressions are very good.  There are some obvious commonalities with other Fantasy Flight Games both in terms of presentation (lots of tokens, high quality components) and gameplay (custom dice, use of ‘surges’ etc).  I’ll need a few more games to get to grips with things.

Having read some warnings online we played with the full supression rules (which are excluded from the Learn to Play rules) and it was fairly obvious that vehicles will be key moving forward.

The rulebook is worth a mention – it’s not great.  FFG provide a printed ‘Learn to Play’ booklet in the core box which attempts to introduce the rules in a step-by-step manner, but to me was just confusing and contradictory.  The full (freely downloadable) Core Rules are much clearer and I’d highly suggest that you skip straight to these.

So since then (and as a direct result of the excellent weather here in the UK at the moment) there has been lots of undercoating and painting (including the addition of an extra core box).

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However I cannot seem to stay away from old Star Wars toys…..

Having decided that I really wanted an Imperial Lambda shuttle for the tabletop, I promptly changed my mind when I saw how much the toy versions (which are the ideal) size were on eBay.  (Revell do a kit, but it is far too small at 1:100ish scale.)

Seperately I had been thinking about investing in some figure cases for the growing Legion hordes, and then it struck me.  Combine the two – scenery piece and storage, and I remembered this…

I’ve managed to source two reasonably cheap and am awaiting their arrival.  Originally designed as carry cases for the action figures, I’m thinking the trays inside could easily be adapted with a bit of foam for miniatures.  Add a bit of weathering and Hoth board here we come…..!

Tabletop gaming with Action Force and the Red Shadows

As a boy in the early eighties I had no shortage of fictional villains to rally against, be it on the playground at school or when playing on the floor with my toys. Cinema, television and comics all offered various nefarious types to rally the forces of good against, many of which are now pop culture icons. Megatron, Skeletor, Darth Vader all had their place, but there was one man who for me stood head and shoulders above these on the baddie roll of dishonour…..Baron Ironblood!

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The likehood is that if you weren’t of a certain age between 1983 and 1985 and are outside of the UK you will no idea about this man or his villainy.

The Baron was the main protagonist for Action Force, a range of ‘Star Wars’ scale action figures that were spawned from the popular (and larger) Action Man range. Action Man himself was the UK version of what was know as G.I.Joe in America and in the UK was produced and marketed by Palitoy (who also happened to be the distributor for the Star Wars figure range on this side of the pond).

Recognising there was an untapped market for military toys in the scale of the stupidly popular Star Wars range Palitoy shrank Action Man down from 12 inch doll to 3.5 inch action figure and the first wave was released in 1982.

Initially taking a similar approach to their larger cousins these fellas represented generic historical and modern military tropes (including Royal Marine Commando, Pilot, WW2 German Soldier, Desert Rat etc.)

However recognising the opportunity to expand the range the line was reorganised in 1983. With the help of some vehicles and figure sculpts borrowed from the US G.I.Joe line, Action Force was rebranded as an international military team brought together to fight an evil terrorist ‘Enemy’, The Red Shadows.

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Action Force itself was split into four ‘arms’:

  • Z Force – the infantry backbone of Action Force
  • SAS Force – special ops and behind the lines specialists (tapping into the minor pop culture obsession there was with the SAS following the Iranian Embassy siege in 1981)
  • Q Force – the naval and underwater team
  • Space Force – did what it said on the tin!

Each team and the ‘Enemy’ had a range of figures, accessories and vehicles available.

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At the same time the new toy line was supported by a series of comic strips published in the long running weekly boys war comic Battle. This was such a popular addition that the title soon renamed itself Battle Action Force.

By the way, for a full and detailed history of the toys and comics I’d highly recommend you visit the absolutely excellent Blood for the Baron website. Here you will also find comic strip scans from Battle Action Force.

Now eventually things changed, the toy line became more closely aligned with the American GI Joe line (dropping the Red Shadows for Cobra and introducing a new merged Action Force team) and while this was reflected very cleverly in the comic strip for me it was the passing of a golden age.

So here I am three decades later with the opportunity to revisit my favourite toy line on the tabletop. This is something I have been working on off and on for a few years, but with the increased availability of multi-part plastic kits in 28mm, 3D printing and a plethora of modern and pulp rulesets available this is something I have gone back to with a vengence recently.

Watch out Baron, here I come…..

(BTW I am certainly not the first person to approach this subject and blog about it. If you get chance please look at the excellent Action Force vs The Red Shadows by Andy ‘Soapy’ Dormer.)

Star Wars Legion….just one more toy

I’ve broken the promise I made to myself that I’d not get distracted any further by terrain or toys.

I’ve just picked up the Hasbro Rogue One U Wing, which is riduclously out of scale for the action figure it comes with, but almost perfect for Legion. Touch of top coat and some panel lining and I think this will look pretty awesome on the tabletop. You should be able to find this for less than £25, so pretty resonable (oh and it also fires nerf darts!)

“What a piece of junk!”

In addition to the model kits I’ve been playing around with for Star Wars Legion I’ve also been looking at toys!

I’ve talked a lot about getting the scale right (or at least as close enough to meet the ‘rule of cool’) with the model kits.  Even more so scale is a key factor when looking at using toys; or more specifically relying on the scale disparity between action figures and their vehicles.

This won’t work for everything.  Star fighters are far too big, but there one or two key vehicles that lend themselves brilliantly to 32mm scale gaming.

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Perusing the popular auction site I have managed to pick up an Attack of the Clones Slave 1 which looks great.  Really nicely weathered and an ideal size (plus only a few quid!)

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Slave 1 alongside Legion Stormtroopers and AT-ST  with 1:50 scale TIE in the background

Millennium Falcon

As a kid in the early eighties I never actually had that many Star Wars toys (Action Force was more my thing – more on that another time).  I always of course coveted a Falcon.  My cousin had one (and an AT-AT, the jammy git) and I used to love playing with it.  I was particularly fascinated by the little pegs that you could fit into the holes on the feet of the figures, being able to sit Luke upside down in the gunners chair and of course that little ‘chess board’.  The fact that if the Falcon was really in scale with the figures it would have taken up the whole house doesn’t really twig when you are a kid.

But 35+ years later when you are starting out with a new war game the penny suddenly drops.

So off to eBay I went, and boy were these battered old toys expensive.  Eventually I narrowed my search down to the mid-90s ‘Power of the Force’ version and the Hasbro Hero Series released in 2004  (in the US this was exclusive to Walmart).

The latter is huge!  It is around 2 foot across.  Not actually a toy for the action figures, but part of a series of releases of big toys a few years ago.  Very much a scenery piece (no interiors); this looked like the thing to go for.

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Hasbro Hero Series Millennium Falcon

After a few days of searching I managed to track one down mint in box going for not a lot of pennies, but collection only on eBay (as I said it is huge!).  Chanced my arm and it paid off.  Spent a couple of hours in the car one Sunday, and here is the result….

There’s some nice detail here.  Stickers were supplied and have been applied.  Next step will probably be a top coat followed by a bit of airbrush weathering.  That said, at present I’m more than happy to use this ‘as is’ on games (although simply due to the size of the thing this will probably have to wait for a bigger table at the next club meeting).

(Just an honorable mention to the Legacy Series toy released a few years ago – similar size to the Hero Series, but made for the action figure range.  If you can get one for less than a few hundred quid good luck!)

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The obvious final toy vehicle!

But as it is I seem to be spending more and more time looking at models and toys and not actually painting any miniatures this one might have to wait…

 

 

 

 

Using Toys and Scale Models for Star Wars Legion

I resisted for a long time….

The lure of the dark side was too much though and a few weeks ago I dived into Star Wars Legion, purchasing the core set, the AT-ST and the Airspeeder expansions.

I’ve not had a chance to play the game yet, but I’m aiming to get one in at our next club meeting in Matlock in May.

Then I got distracted…..

By toys….. (actual toys).

More specifically toys and model kits that I could use on the table top to enhance my games of Legion. Inspired in part by the excellent coverage and similar ideas raised on Beasts of War I started scouring the popular auction site.

First off, let’s cover model kits…

So the elephant in the room then: scale. Legion figures are chunky (controversially so, but that is a discussion for another time). At best guess I’d go for 32 to 35mm or in model kit speak about 1:48. The two best sources for scale model kits at present are Bandai and Revell.

Bandai kits are high quality, usually pre-coloured, snap-fit and relatively inexpensive. However they are not that easy to get hold of. Bandai hold the Star Wars license in the far east only, so even via eBay you are looking at potential a long wait and customs charges if you are unlucky.

 

Scale wise they vary – most star fighter kits are 1:72 (too small), but they do one or two kits in 1:48 which are pretty spot on (ironically the two vehicles that are available anyway for Legion – the AT-ST and the Airspeeder).

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Bandai 1/48 (left) FFG Legion (right)

Revell on the other hand are much easier to get hold of (even on the ever more sparse high streets of the UK). However here’s the catch, the scales are really all over the place! 1:106, 1:44, 1:50, 1:78 to name but a few.  That said there are a few gems in the current range that fit really nicely on a Legion tabletop.

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Revell 1/44 A-Wings

The A-wings above are 1:44 scale, easy assemble and pre-coloured (they also come with added light and sound effects).

 

Also pretty spot on in terms of scale is the First Order Special Forces TIE fighter.

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Revell 1/50 Build and Play Special Forces TIE Fighter

A word of warning on this one though. Revell do two different versions, this is the 1:50 scale ‘build and play’ kit; there is also a larger 1:35 kit.  Obvious problem with these?  They aren’t classic trilogy era; but you know for a bit of flavour on the tabletop I can over look that!

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So that’s model kits.  Next up toys…….